A new state grant will help more Turlock residents impacted by well water contamination.
The Valley Water Collaborative, a local organization of farmers, businesses and cities, has been offering free well testing to rural residents since May 2021. Thanks to a new $5.5 million grant from the State Water Resources Control Board and its SAFER/Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund program, VWC is now offering more comprehensive water testing and expanded options for dealing with wells that are contaminated.
"When we started this program in May 2021, we only tested wells for nitrate contamination," said Parry Klassen, Executive Director of VWC. "While nitrate is a common pollutant in rural wells, residents need to be aware that other potential contaminants, such as arsenic and pesticides, are being found in private wells.
“This new partnership with the State enables us to test domestic wells for other potential contaminants that were previously not covered by our program. When a problem with the other contaminants is identified in the water supply of a disadvantaged household or households in disadvantaged communities, we can now provide a water treatment or filtering option to ensure people have access to clean drinking water.”
The $5.5 million grant also opens the door to providing more choices for safe water. Before the grant, VWC provided free bottled water delivery to eligible residents when nitrate was identified as a problem. The newly expanded program opens the door for other alternatives, such as in-home treatment systems, which are shown to be effective with contaminants found in the region including arsenic, 1,2,3-TCP, and DBCP, among others.
Since VWC initiated its nitrate testing program in May 2021, more than 600 applications have been received for free testing of drinking water wells located in the semi-rural areas surrounding cities in the Modesto and Turlock groundwater basins. In Turlock specifically, there have been 339 applications, a total of 159 wells sampled, with 113 households receiving bottled drinking water.
Unlike cities with public water systems managed under rigorous water sampling and health standards, private domestic wells are largely unregulated and depend on landowners to ensure the water is safe to drink. Because public water systems deliver safe water, residences connected to these systems are not eligible for the program.
As the expanded program rolls out in mid-March, VWC will notify its 200 existing water recipients that their wells can be tested for the other contaminants for free. Also, previous program applicants whose wells tested below the nitrate standard.
Rural residents who depend on private wells for drinking water and are interested in learning more about the program and applying can visit the VWC website at www.valleywaterc.org.